Rewatching Girls, an unlikely character shines through: the grumpy 33-year-old | Girls

getting Covid wasn’t how I intended to spend my first few weeks at 32, but like many other Aussies battling the Omicron wave earlier this year I was stuck on the couch mired in lethargy for weeks.

Unable to focus on anything new, I was thrilled to find all six seasons of Lena Dunham’s Girls available to stream. Like the show’s protagonists, I was 22 and fresh out of college when it was acclaimed in 2012 – and watched in real time as that acclaim turned into backlash.

Billed as the millennial answer to Sex and the City, critics were angered by Dunham’s candid style, awkward, in-your-face sex scenes, and lack of likability from the four main characters. The show also had its blind spots when it came to representation.

In many ways, Hannah (played by Dunham), Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshanna were no different from my own friends. We were also figuring out what our careers would look like, compromising on the men and women we dated and coming to the overwhelming realization that our ambitions were unlikely to materialize with the greatness we had. dream.

Still, I felt a level of disgust for the chaos and self-indulgence of the eponymous girls. I, twenty-two, loved to look at him with hate while claiming some level of intellectual superiority over how he portrayed my generation of women.

Fast forward 10 years, and rewatching the series, I don’t feel the irritation and condescension that I expected to solidify over time. Instead, I feel a nostalgic affection for the protagonists and a gripping sense of admiration for the show’s true hero: Ray.

“Ray uses his gruff exterior to mask a genuine depth of care for his friends.” Photography: HBO

I’m aware that I’m choosing to center one of the few male characters in a TV series literally named Girls – but I have my reasons. On first viewing, Ray – played by Alex Karpovsky – was an obnoxious interjection in the show’s eccentric, booze-infused, social media-fueled millennial dreamscape.

Thirty-three, grumpy and with a penchant for long monologues about all the ways the world is broken, Ray seemed mostly there to contrast Hannah’s youthful abandonment and her friends in their twenties, haunting them like a ghost. of their depressing lives. 30s to come.

But with the advantage of age and perspective, Ray really shines as a down-to-earth giver of pragmatic advice, who uses his gruff exterior to mask a genuine depth of care from his friends.

Over the course of six seasons (spoiler alert, but come on, it’s been 10 years), Ray lavishes meaningful advice on Marni amid her directionless boredom (“I’m old enough to recognize that all that bullshit comes from a dark pit and deep insecurity,” he says – advice that seems relevant to most existential crises); it shows genuine love and care for ex-girlfriend Shoshanna as she struggles with what life after college is even like; and he portrays a depth of grief over the loss of his father figure and employer in season six, which stands in stark contrast to the haphazard chaos of the other characters, who seem incapable of any real feeling for anyone in the world. other than themselves.

Ray is not without flaws, of course. He reads Hannah’s diary without her permission; he is rude and aggressive most of the time; he is prone to fits of screaming at strangers. But beneath his frustrated masculinity lies a glimpse of something tender and real.

There are a lot of things the girls got wrong. There was very little meaningful diversity, questioning of class or race, a dose of rudeness, and a reinforcement of some pretty gross sexuality and gender norms. But Ray Ploshansky? Ray speaks to my cynical 32-year-old heart, and that’s what I’m here for.

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